Graeme Cox, who is 86, tells us that the highlight of his life was meeting his wife Betty. Betty, who’s now 91, is still cycling in tandem with her husband of over 60 years. In the last 16 months alone, they’ve cycled over 1,700 miles, and don’t see themselves stopping anytime soon.
They met when Betty was on a girls’ holiday. “One night we went to meet together in the church and Graeme happened to be there,” she tells us.
“As soon as I met her, I said, ‘You better buy a bike’” Graeme remembers. “I had a 48-mile round trip after work to go and see her. “She wouldn’t speak to me when I got to the house – nobody would – The Archers were on!” Graeme laughs.
Since then, they never, ever went on the bus – they always cycled if they needed to get somewhere, even on their honeymoon. “We took our bikes on the train to Bournemouth,” Betty says.
Through their shared interests and learning to compromise over the years, Betty tells us that she’s “enjoyed every minute” since they’ve been married.
“People say you’re never still on that bike are you, I say “Yes! I’m taking it up to heaven!”
Their first daughter was born the August after they got married. They wrote to Cycling Magazine to ask how soon before the birth Betty could ride, and how soon after.
“About six weeks before and six weeks after” they were told. So, six weeks after, the tandem and sidecar were outside the house and all their neighbours told them, “You can’t do that, surely!” – but they did!
In their years together, Graeme and Betty have travelled – and cycled – all over the world. From Lands’ End all the way to New Zealand. In Canada, they cycled over the Rockies – 893 miles in three weeks to be exact. They’ve cycled in Ireland, Brittany, Norway, and even Los Angeles whilst waiting for their flight to New Zealand!
“I think being in the fresh air is the best thing ever,” Betty says. During their life together, they’ve had four tandem bikes. They enjoy cycling tandem as you can do more miles than if you were on individual bikes. Graeme explains that even though you sometimes come home and you “want to throw your bike over the hedge, the next morning you’re back on form, and you get this feeling of fitness and health.”
“We’ve carried on as if we haven’t got old,” Graeme continues. Five years ago, Betty was diagnosed with bowel cancer. But thankfully, because she was so fit from riding, she was only in hospital for eight days.
“I feel marvellous, to be honest,” Betty tells us. “I thought she’d been to the dentist she looked that well (after the surgery),” Graeme adds. “It was a miracle really – I had 73 get well cards,” Betty says, “You can’t buy your health”.
Betty and Graeme’s biggest piece of advice is to not try and keep up with the Joneses. “Don’t live beyond your means,” they say.
“That’s the best thing about getting older,” Betty says, “you live carefully and don’t have worries” like you might do when you’re younger.
“I can’t regret not having done anything earlier – we’ve done whatever we’ve been able to,” Graeme says. “We’re fortunate – more fortunate than a lot of people. But sometimes you’re at the top of the mountain and sometimes you’re down in the valley,” Betty explains.
When talking about maybe having to stop riding one day, they say that as long as they’re able to do it, they will. “You’re never too old to ride. Each day is a bonus at our age,” Betty says. “It’s either that or sitting in the house watching the telly!” Graeme laughs.
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